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A STORY ABOUT A REAL MAN                                                                   25?

they'll screw my head off for being an old fool and ap-
pointing you! But who can tell what you can do? In this
war our boys have surprised the world with even bigger
things than that-----Where's your paper?"

With that the general scribbled across the paper with
blue pencil in a^ careless, illegible hand, barely complet-
ing the words: "Applicant to be sent to training school."
Meresyev snatched the paper with a trembling hand, read
the inscription there and then, at the desk, then read it
again on the staircase landing, again downstairs where
the sentry examined the passes, again in the street-car,
and finally on the pavement in the rain. And of all the
inhabitants of the globe, he alone knew the meaning and
the value of those carelessly scribbled words.

That day Alexei Meresyev sold his watch—a gift from
the Divisional Commander—and with the proceeds went
to the market and bought all sorts of food and wine, tele-
phoned Anyuta and implored her to get a couple of hours'
leave from her base hospital, invited the old couple in
Anyuta's apartment, and arranged a feast to celebrate
his great victory.

The training school near Moscow, situated close to a
small airfield, was very busy during those anxious days.
The Air Force had a large share of the battle of Stalin-
grad. The sky over that Volga stronghold, always aglare
and overcast with the smoke of conflagrations and ex-
plosions, was the arena of incessant air clashes that de-
veloped into regular battles. The losses on both sides were
heavy. Fighting Stalingrad was calling for airmen, air-
men and more airmen---- The training combat flying

school, which trained airmen who had been discharged
from hospital, and also pilots who had hitherto iown
civil aircraft, was consequently working to full capacity.
Training planes, looking like dragon-flies, swarmed over
the small and crowded airfield like flies over an uncleared
kitchen table, and their buzzing could be heard fitra
sunrise to sunset. Whenever you looked at the wheel-
rutted field, there was always a machine either taking off
or landing.